After going winless last season, second-year Westerville Central High School girls basketball coach Jamiya Pride is confident his team can begin a turnaround.
"I feel more comfortable from a standpoint that I had the summer with them," said Pride, who took over the program in September of last year. "We were able to go to camp with the team. We were able to use 10 days in the summer. We had open gym, so that helps huge going into the season. Last year, I didn't have any of that."
The Warhawks went 0-21 overall and 0-14 in the OCC-Cardinal Division last season. They lost to second-seeded Pickerington North 75-25 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Central opened Nov. 27 at Mount Vernon and begins league play Friday, Nov. 30, at home against Dublin Jerome.
Besides his year of experience as coach, Pride believes his program will improve because of continued improvement from Megan Mills, a four-year varsity player and last year's leading scorer.
"I expect a big season from Megan," he said. "She's looking to go off and play at the next level, so her experience alone playing varsity for four years is definitely going to lead the team."
Mills, a senior guard/forward, averaged 12.3 points last season and was second-team all-league.
"We can only go up," she said. "We want to become a better overall team. Last year, we didn't play a lot of defense, so we're definitely going to have to step up our defensive game."
Also back is sophomore point guard Andrea Hodge, who gained experience last season as a starter. She averaged 6.0 points and was honorable mention all-league.
"We threw Andrea right in last year, more for experience," Pride said. "We wanted to see what we could get from her. She's going to help us out tremendously. We've already seen improvements in her game."
Other players who return with varsity experience are seniors Brooklyn Frazier (forward), Megan Gray (guard), Kelsey Merriam (guard), Molly Radigan (center) and Maggie Sabo (forward).
Juniors Taylor Hosey (forward) and Halle Kramer (guard) played junior varsity last season. Freshman Emma Stille (center) rounds out the team.
The Warhawks lost 2012 graduates Hannah Hetterscheidt, Pam Iacobucci and Carly Morris.
"Our goal is we have to get better defensively," Pride said. "Last year, I tried to begin a foundation with a defensive presence, so year two we're going to continue to establish a defensive presence that we need in order to compete."
Last season, Central finished last in the league behind Olentangy (13-1), Dublin Scioto (11-3), Westerville North (9-5), Westerville South (8-6), Jerome (8-6), Olentangy Liberty (5-9) and Marysville (2-12).
Olentangy has moved to the OCC-Capital, and Liberty and Marysville now are in the OCC-Central. Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne have joined the OCC-Cardinal.
"I expect a very competitive year," Pride said of the league race. "I don't see anyone like an Olentangy that can run away with it. I believe most coaches would believe that. Therefore, it's up for grabs. I really believe it's going to be a tight race."